Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Poster Art: The Beatles

Buzzed by posting the large reproduction of North By Northwest last month, I want to start hipwalking classic and stylish modern posters every week. For the first of this series, I've turned to Richard Hamilton's Beatles photo collage that accompanied the original copies of the Scousers' "White Album".
     Now, I'm no Beatles nut but their 1968 double album not only contained their best songs (Dear Prudence, Helter Skelter, Happiness Is A Warm Gun) but also one of the finest pieces of music-related Pop Art ever made. Hamilton suggested the poster as a means of contrasting with the austere, individually-numbered conceptualism of the album's cover. "I began to feel a bit guilty at putting their double album under plain wrappers," he recalls in Barry Miles' The Beatles Diary. "I suggested it could be jazzed up with a large edition print, an insert that would be even more glamorous than a normal sleeve."
     A huge fan of the then 46-year old artist, Paul McCartney spent the best part of a week driving to Hamilton's house in North London to assist with the collage. Contemporary photographs by John Kelly and Linda Eastman were neatly arranged alongside childhood snaps, before Hamilton pasted in white paper to give the composition room to "breathe" and tie it in with the off-white album sleeve. McCartney was taken aback at the simplicity of the gesture: "It was beautiful and I remember being very impressed with the way he put this negative space on - it was the first time that I'd ever seen that idea."

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